A major cause of air pollution in East Africa and elsewhere in the developing world is the burning of household trash. Breathing dangerously polluted air, which is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, may exacerbate the consequences of the
COVID-19 pandemic, as people with these conditions are less able to fight off and more likely to die from the novel coronavirus. The situation is made more perilous for populations that lack access to health care and nutrition. In settings where health care systems are unable to provide more critical forms of care, understanding how to drive public adjustment, such as lessening exposure to air pollution, might prove critical to reducing mortality related to COVID-19.

This project assessed the effects of information and social competition on trash burning and associated COVID-19 preparedness by pairing adjacent zones (i.e., “neighborhoods” and also the lowest-level administrative unit) in Nansana municipality near Kampala, Uganda.

A highly trained local field team disseminate health information, ran local competitions, and managed local trash pickup service (as an alternative way to dispose of trash). Field team members called mobile phones of neighborhood leaders to arrange the dissemination of information. Nearly 1000 disposable KN-95 face masks were worn and distributed when visiting neighborhoods to observe potential trash burning after sunset, a popular pastime for the locals. The team will track which kind of approach can best spur COVID-19 preparedness.